February 25, 2019


George Harrison was born today in 1943! I was teaching at The Putney School when he passed away in 2001. I'll never forget standing up during morning assembly to announce that I'd heard the news- oh boy. When I began to speak my throat closed with emotion and it was hard to get the words out. George was a special person to many of us and for many different reasons. Here are a few thoughts in celebration of his birthday. He was the young lad who obsessively doodled guitars in his school notebooks and brought iconic hooks, solos, and songs to Beatles records. He also played a large role in bringing Indian music and culture to mainstream radar. Inspired by a sitar player on the set of Help! (1965), George went on to study with sitar master, Ravi Shankar, who became a kind of adopted father to the young Beatle. A wonderful box set came out a while back called Collaborations, which included all of the music released by George and Ravi, as well as some video performances. George explored music, meditation, and spirituality throughout his life, and he produced records by Indian musicians and spiritual groups (as well as many Apple artists). He also helped to establish the Bhaktivedanta Manor as the UK center of the Hare Krishna movement. The manor sports a beautiful garden devoted to George with areas named after many of his songs (well worth a visit!). His family announced last April the launch of Harisongs, a label devoted to George's personal archive of classical Indian and world music. George is also remembered today for the role he played in producing Monty Python's Life of Brian and other great independent film projects. Through his company, Hand-Made Films, Harrison was the executive producer of cult classics such as Mona Lisa, How to Get a Head in Advertising, Withnail and I, and two personal faves, Powwow Highway and Time Bandits. The Beatles grew up to the music and humor of UK stage-sensation, George Formby, and Harrison was especially drawn to the ukulele. Since George's passing in 2001, Paul McCartney has included a ukulele tribute to his old buddy in each of his concerts with a performance of the powerful Harrison classic "Something" from Abbey Road (1969). In the clip below, Paul mentions that his old friend was even a member of the Formby fan club. So sweet. I really appreciated George for his music, his thoughtful contemplation, for introducing me to Indian music, and ultimately for his quirky humor. I had a chance to visit the childhood homes of each of The Beatles in Liverpool about two years ago, with special visits inside John and Paul's homes. I was only able to view George and Ringo's places from the outside. My impression in each case was one of very humble beginnings, but I also got the sense that their lives were filled with family and friendships. Liverpool is a fantastic city and I urge Spy Vibers to make the trip if they haven't already. Check out Paul's tribute below. I've also added some George images, including some that illustrate his other huge hobby: sports cars (note the DB5, XKE, and the in-dash record player!), and nice moments with Ravi and with Eric Idle (Monty Python). Top image by Richard Avedon. Enjoy! Related posts: Baby You Can Drive my DB5.

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